Why the size structure of marine communities can require decades to recover from fishing

Tak Fung, Keith Farnsworth, Samuel Shephard, David Reid, Axel G Rossberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


A dynamic food-web model of more than 1000 species was used to quantify the recovery trajectory of marine community size-structure under different hypothetical fishing regimes, using the Northeast Atlantic as an example. Size-structure was summarised by four indicators: the Large Fish Indicator (LFI), the Large Species Indicator (LSI), the biomass-weighted mean maximum length of fish species (EMBED Equation.3) and the biomass-weighted mean maturation length of fish species (EMBED Equation.3). Time-series of these indicators recorded recovery following release from fishing with various size-selectivities, intensities and durations. In model simulations, fishing-induced trophic cascades were observed to distort fish community size-structure, but these did not have a large influence on recovery level or duration as measured by the four indicators. However, simulations showed that local extinctions of large fish species increased in number with both fishing intensity and duration, and could strongly limit the recovery level. Recovery of fish community size-structure to near equilibrium frequently took multiple decades in simulations; these long transient periods suggest that management interventions for size-structure recovery may require much longer than previously thought. Our results demonstrate the need for community-level modelling to set realistic targets for management of community size-structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-171
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Ecology: Progress Series
Issue numbernull
Early online date03 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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